Choose Your Own Adventure: HR Style


January 16, 2010

I am addicted to reading.  I think I always have been.  One great thing my parents did from an early age was take me to storytime at our local library every week.  I had my first library card at age 3 when I learned to write my name.  They continued to fuel my addiction by buying me books as often as they could afford to.

Choose Your Own Adventure

By the time I reached elementary school, one of my favorite book series was Choose Your Own Adventure.  It was a series of “gamebooks” where the reader becomes the main character of the story and at the end of every page, or every few pages, there is a decision to make.  Some choices lead you to a happy ending where you receive riches or a wonderful reward.  Some of the choices the reader makes end in death or other less desirable outcomes.  You could read the same book over and over and never have the same outcome.

For example, the story might have you in the middle of the Amazon rainforest.  You see  a tribe of people running toward you with daggers and other weapons.  If you decide to stay put and see what they want, turn to page 17.  If you turn and run away as fast as you can, turn to page 28.  If you decide to clap your hands together and make noise to scare them away, turn to page 31.  Once you choose the next step you are going to take, more choices will await you at the end of that section.  It’s a great way to try out different options.

Wouldn’t it be great if HR had books like that?

Maybe we’d have “Journey to FMLA” where the story of an employee who has an illness they are trying to deal with is told.  The HR pro would then get facts throughout the story and each time some new information surfaced, the HR pro would have to make a choice.  Maybe something like:  If you believe the employee qualifies for FMLA, turn to page 12.  If you think this employee is faking their illness, turn to page 20.  You get the idea.

How about a story like “The Secret of the Manager from Space”.  In this story, the reader would not know the manager was from space and would be getting clues that the manager is just not very good at giving feedback, at managing a project, or managing a group of employees.  The HR pro would have a great time of deciding whether to do nothing, coach the manager, figure out WHY the manager works in this way, etc.

What do you think?  Great training tool, or just great fun?  I don’t know, but I’m suddenly in the mood to head over to Borders and buy my old favorite Choose Your Own Adventure book….’By Balloon to the Sahara.’


  • I love these books! I’m having grade school flashbacks just looking at these covers 🙂

    I think employee handbooks should be designed this way. Imagine that, instead of a straightforward (and boring) narrative it could be structured so that employees better understood the consequences of their employment choices.

    For example:

    “You’re scheduled to take part in an important presentation today but you partied too hard last night. If you decide to go anyway, go to page X. If you decide to call out then go to page Y.”

    Great post Trish!

    • @Victorio- I LOVE IT! Writing handbooks like that would be great. I wonder if I could actually design a soft-skills training around this type of approach? It would be educational but fun. I’m going to start thinking on that one….

  • I never read those books. I got started reading at 4 years old. I was reading Greek mythology at 6. I read “Dune” by Frank Herbert at 11 and have been a confirmed science fiction and fantasy geek all my life.

    I am concerned that reading is becoming a lost art.

  • We should collaborate on this. There’s a real potential as far as I can see. If set-up right it could help to reinforce key behaviors and expectations.

  • I’ve never read those book either Trish but they sound like great fun! I love the idea of developing a soft skills training around this concept. It sounds a bit like a fun way to do a flow chart. It would be an excellent tool for new managers specifically but I can see how even tenured managers and HR pros could benefit from something like this.

  • Trish-
    I too am addicted to books! I love reading of all types. These books, I have not heard of. I love the concept, and agree with April, there is great opportunity here for soft skills training.
    It would be great to work through daily HR challenges we all face on a daily basis.

  • I used to love these books, although I always seemed to end up dying……clearly poor at making decisions.

    The HR version might be a cool training tool…imagine what you could do with a digital version too. Maybe ebooks will see the return of the game book? It could cross the divide for kids between gaming and reading?

    Borders in the UK went into administration just before Christmas and now no longer exists. That tells you all you need to know about the book trade…..

  • LOL! And the answer to the question is both: fun & great training tool.
    Turn to page 6 when employee says they have a qualified exigency. Turn to page 10 if you think you need a lawyer. Turn to page 20 if you just want to hide under your desk. Ha-ha.
    If you make them, I’ll buy them.

  • whoa…serious flashback. i particularly recall Deadwood City. your idea is kind of like a flight simulator for HR professionals – so when you actually encounter a sticky situation, you know what to do to avoid going down in a ball of flames. me likey.

  • I am seriously trying to decide how to build a training session based on this type of material. Instead of role-playing (which everyone hates) and giving answers away, let the people run through the situations in their own pace and find out how they should act.

    LOVE those books, by the way. Have several dozen that I donated to my wife’s 3rd grade classroom library. 🙂

  • I love Victorio’s idea of using this concept for employee handbooks. I’m picturing an online multimedia handbook to grab the attention of employees. Great post and great comments.

  • @Michael- Reading, at least in book form, probably is becoming a lost art. I love Greek mythology too. I’m definitely doing my part to make sure I pass the love of reading to my kids. They are just now learning to read and it’s such an exciting thing for them.

    @Victorio- would love to collaborate with you on something like this!

    @April- The flow chart would be a great way to incorporate the style of the book into a form that would work for presentations. Great training idea! Thanks

    @Shennee- Thanks for commenting. What type of books did you like when you were a kid?

    @TheHRD- I think I remember dying quite a bit when I’d read them too. You’re probably on to something with the video idea. I know there are some sites online that take that approach but they are not affiliated with the original book series as far as I can tell. Thanks for commenting.

    @Paul- Ok, I’m turning to page 10 right now….lol.

    @Charlie- Deadwood City! That was a great one.

    @Ben- You’re cool to donate them to her class. 3rd grade is definitely the perfect age to enjoy this book series.

    @Michael- I love Victorio’s idea of the employee handbook too. How about you write/design it and we all buy it?

Comments are closed.

Choose Your Own Adventure
Choose Your Own Adventure
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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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